Oprah Talks to Barbara Walters
Oprah: Wasn't that in 1976?
Barbara: Yes. The first night I did an interview—I talked with [Egyptian president] Anwar el-Sadat. Then the second night I interviewed [Israeli prime minister] Golda Meir. My publicity was so hideous. I got killed for it. That's when I did the now famous interview with Anwar el-Sadat and [Israeli prime minister] Menachem Begin, which was the first joint interview the two had ever done. Then I went to Cuba and spent ten days with Fidel Castro.
Oprah: That was your way of saying, "I'm not gonna let 'em have me."
Barbara: What was I going to do? I had a child to support. I was supporting my family then.
Oprah: Were you devastated, Barbara?
Barbara: I really did feel that my career was over. What saved me were my friends and my child. I'd decided to go to ABC because it was time to see my child in the mornings without always being so exhausted. Then I had four years of all these big interviews. It was a different time—we wanted to see heads of state. Now heads of state call up and ask, "What's your rating?" I'm not kidding. It's like, "Hello, this is Saddam Hussein. How many viewers do you have? Do you reach a young audience?"
When I went over to 20/20, I felt I needed a home. The show's anchor, Hugh Downs, was very honest and said, "Look, I like her very much, but I don't really want her." ABC said, "It will make the ratings better to have a partner." He was wonderful. So it's good to fail sometimes. When you fail, you have to prove yourself. That's often the best thing that can happen, because then you're sure your success isn't just luck.
Oprah: Have you ever been nervous before a major interview?
Barbara: No. Thirty years ago, I used to smoke one cigarette beforehand. You know when I did get nervous? When I'd go on Johnny Carson or David Letterman. Now with David, I just let it fly.
Oprah: So you weren't nervous before the Sadat and Begin interview?
Barbara: No. It helps that I do so much homework.
Oprah: How about with Castro?
Barbara: I was concerned that it might be a boring interview, but I wasn't nervous. However, put me on a dance floor, and if I have to dance by myself, I can't do it. I also don't drive.
Oprah: You don't?
Barbara: No. Years ago I heard my daughter on the phone saying, "My mommy doesn't drive. My mommy burns the meat loaf. My mommy doesn't do anything except television." There are whole areas in which I feel very inadequate. Who doesn't drive except me?
Oprah: Quincy Jones. You're the only two people I know.
Barbara: Thank goodness. We can share a car.